Posts tagged ‘Water’

Clear Gold

Michigan is proposing build a pipeline to drain 322 million litres of water from Lake Huron. Ontario hasn’t agreed to it yet, because the proposal doesn’t contain assurance that the water “will stay in the Great Lakes basin and be used efficiently.” Since moving water from the Great Lakes sounds a lot like the plan for solving Lake Mead’s problems without addressing the issues of wasted water.

The people murmuring about Water Wars are starting to look less and less crazy as time goes on.

Sarnia solved the issue of water conservation. They raised water prices and imposed watering restrictions, and a miraculous thing happened. “The water is so bloody expensive, that’s why people are not using it,” according to Coun. Anne Marie Gillis. They cut their water down to 81,000 cubic metres/day from the 181,000 it’s licensed to sell. So, to celebrate, they are begging people to waste more water, because the loss of revenue is putting them in the red.

Water is more valuable a resource than coal, oil, or gold. Three days without it and you die. Period. And as we start to watch folks around the world try to deal with their water shortages, it’s probably a good idea to look at our relationship to it. The average American uses 4500 litres of water per day (and I can’t imagine the Canadian numbers are much different—but if you know your food consumption in kilograms, you can calculate your water footprint). It’s not so surprising when you realize that it takes 200 litres to make 1kg of plastic, or that it requires 2-4 barrels of water to extract a barrel of oil from the tar sands. And then, of course, there’s food.

(more…)

August 1, 2009 at 8:14 pm 1 comment

Water water everywhere, and not a drop to…eat

My garden is swimming. Every day I look up at the sky and think, “oh, come on, can’t we have just one day without rain?” I’m fighting a war against fungal diseases on my tomatoes (spoiled milk is an amazing weapon!) because it’s been so cool and wet… and Alberta is becoming a desert.

This year we’re really getting to see what slaves we are to water. We still don’t have corn in Ontario because of the wet cold, while Alberta’s crops are about 2 weeks behind normal because of their drought. For Alberta cattle farmers, that means that rising feed prices are forcing them to sell huge percentages of their livestock because there’s no grass for grazing.

“We’ve had about an inch and 2/10ths (three centimetres) total since the snow left, and we didn’t have any snow,” one farm worker is quoted as saying in a Calgary Harold Article.

Mexico’s water shortage is now an emergency so bad that they’ve announced a 10 month water rationing plan, according to the Latin American Herald Tribune.

“If we don’t act now, both the government and the citizens, we won’t have enough water in the city during the dry season – February, March, April, May, primarily,” Ebrard said, adding that 13 of the metropolis’ 16 boroughs could be completely without water.

Does this sound familiar?

Imagine having to cut your water use by 10% Sunday’s through Thursdays, 25% on Fridays, and 50% on Saturdays (I’m not sure how the math works to get through 4 months even with these reductions). Imagine trying to supply North America with tomatoes etc with those kinds of restrictions.

It’s not just oil prices that are causing food costs to rise. You can’t grow food without water.

Did you know that it takes the same amount of water to produce 2 pounds of beef as to shower every day for a year? Two Pounds.

But we don’t think about the cost of water until things get bad, because the planet is covered in it. Sure, most of it is saltwater, and more and more of it is being contaminated every day, but it’s everywhere. Take Australia, for instance. They’re surrounded. Of course, they learned pretty quickly, as Treehugger points out, that you can’t grow food without fresh water:

Water shortages drop Australia's rice production to almost zero

Water shortages drop Australia's rice production to almost zero

And we can only expect the water crisis to get worse as the earth warms.

More on clear gold this week.

July 29, 2009 at 12:31 pm 1 comment

Water is a valuable resource.

The editors of the Public Library of Science Medicine are worried that “access to clean water, which is essential for health, is under threat,” due to the privatization of the water industry. It’s a little frightening to learn that clean drinking water has become a $500 billion industry three corporations are dominating.

“This model has proven to be a failure,” wrote Maude Barlow, senior advisor on water issues to the UN General Assembly’s president, in an essay published last year. “High water rates, cut-offs to the poor, reduced services, broken promises and pollution have been the legacy of privatization.”

You can read the full article in Wired Science, but in the mean time, think about the kinds of disasters that happen when money becomes the only priority in dealing with natural resources. (Recall how Colorado law prevents the collection of rainwater or grey water, because they don’t own the rights to the water).

UPDATE:
Boing Boing reports that Colorado has reversed their rainbarrel ban, not because it was asinine, but because “A study in 2007 proved crucial to convincing Colorado lawmakers that rain catching would not rob water owners of their rights [to downstream bodies of water].” Cheers.

July 2, 2009 at 1:57 pm Leave a comment

Wine to Water

I’d never heard of Doc Hendley, 30, until today, but he’s officially earned the rank of hero in my books. Back in 2003, when he was working as a bar tender, he literally dreamed up the idea of Wine to Water, a non-profit organization that provides clean water to people around the world.

When the idea came to me to start Wine To Water the only real world job experience I had was tending bar. I dreamed of building an organization that fought water related death and disease using completely different methods than anyone else. So I started raising money to fight this water epidemic the best way I knew how, by pouring wine and playing music.

He started raising money at wine tasting events, and took the procedes to Samaritan’s Purse, to support their well-drilling operation. But instead of just taking the money, the head of Samaritan’s Purse taught him how to drill so he could use the cash he raised to do his own water work in Sudan.

While he was there, he noticed that

“big organizations came along with million dollar grants and half-million dollar drills to meet a quota of 50 wells in six months to successfully complete their grant, only to get another. It’s like a business. That’s how they make their money. And that really upset me.

Besides, he had a better way. Instead of popping a hole in the ground and leaving he’s teaching people how to dig their own wells. So they can sustain themselves. And each other. That is beautiful.

Doc Hendley

Via Tonic.

May 8, 2009 at 11:13 pm Leave a comment

Is Your Lawn Worth Someone’s Ability to Live?

How about desert produce?

According to this disturbing article, America’s largest reservoir is drying up. It’s really simple math: the amount of water being removed from Lake Mead every year excedes the amount being fed into it by the Colerado river.
photo by Tim Pearce

In 2008, the Scripps Institute of Oceanography issued a paper titled “When will Lake Mead go dry?” which set the odds of Lake Mead drying up by 2021 at 50-50. No more water, no more electricity, no more pumping power.

This is bad news for the million acres of crops being irrigated by the water source accross the U.S. and Mexico. Oh, and the tens of millions of people who depend upon the reservoir for their water supply, and the half-million homes that are powered by “its mighty Hoover Dam”.

How did this happen?

Well, for starters, there’s the farmers who flood arid farmland with water to grow rice (what?). There’s the fact that we depend on veggies grown in the desert (how much are those California strawberries worth to you?). And then there’s the fact that residents of desert communities maintain beautiful green grass lawns, and “golfers demand courses in areas where the temperature exceeds 100 degrees Fahrenheit”.

Is the status of a green lawn or the convenience of out-of-season food really worth “turning the tap off for 800,000 households”?

At least they’ve started “grass buyback” programs to convince people to consider drought-tolerant landscaping. They’re offering tax incentives to people who use pool covers. Lovely.

Of course, when Las Vegas residents tried to pass a bill to allow homeowners to install graywater systems, Southern Nevada Water Authority blocked it, saying that “legalizing graywater will cause people to use more fresh water and return less dirty water to the reclamation plant”. Sorry? It’s like the laws making rain barrels illegal.

Instead of considering a shift in thinking/lifestyle, the best solutions that the Big Thinkers could come up with for the problem are either to pump water in from eastern states or to de-salt seawater.

The power requirement for either proposal—desalting seawater or transporting water over great distance—is enormous. But if the only other alternative is a mass evacuation from the western United States, what other choice do we have?

Pardon me?

May 7, 2009 at 11:26 am 2 comments


Recent Posts

livinglime on twitter:

Archives